Without kicking a ball since last Sunday it looks like this has been a reasonable week for The Arsenal with no reported injuries from those players on international duty this week.
Eduardo’s encouraging progress to a first-team return continues. He set up Croatia’s winner in Bucharest against Romania. Aaron Ramsey appeared as a second half substitute in Portugal where Wales played Poland in a friendly, losing 1-0. Lukasz Fabianski kept a clean sheet in goal for Poland. With both Theo Walcott and Cesc Fàbregas unfit no Arsenal players featured in England’s 2-0 loss to Spain in Seville.
Carlos Vela is probably thanking his lucky stars that he was suspended for Mexico’s 2-0 loss to the USA in Columbus in a World Cup qualifier featuring the two big fish in the North/Central American pool. The American mid-west was racked with intense electrical storms and torrential rain yesterday. The game was played in monsoon conditions. Sven-Göran Eriksson is about as popular as a rat sandwich in Mexico at the moment and is likely to get his P45 if he doesn’t walk from the Mexican national team job first, no doubt with the customary gi-normous golden goodbye. He got a shed-load from the FA here when his contract was terminated early. Nice work if you can get it.
Johann Djourou played as a second half substitute in Switzerland’s 1-1 draw with Bulgaria in Geneva. Both Kolo Touré and Emmanuel Eboué featured in the Ivory Coast’s 1-1 draw in ?zmir. A pity the latter couldn’t have been issued with a one-way ticket really.
Robin Van Persie played the first half for the Netherlands against Tunisia in a 1-1 draw in Radčs near Tunis.
Bacary Sagna and William Gallas both played the full 90 minutes for France against Argentina in Marseilles in a 2-0 loss. Samir Nasri was a non-playing substitute.
All will have arrived back today in London at some time. Tomorrow we can begin preparing for the FA Cup 4th round replay against Cardiff City at the Grove on Monday night. This game will definitely be decided on the evening, the prize for the winners being a further home tie against Burnley. I think we need total focus on this match to exclusion of all else. Aside from anything else we need to get back to winning ways after a run of draws. We’re having trouble creating chances at the moment, although we are defending a little better, albeit not at the level I’d like.
Much as I adore watching flowing attacking football I also love watching a team defend with discipline and tactical concentration. Watching our famous “no goal patrol” of the late 1980s and 1990s was a joy. A great goal against a great defence is the very best of football I always think.
Before the digital revolution we saw very little foreign football in this country. I used to occasionally travel to the continent, particularly Italy, in the 1980s, an era when we almost always played on a Saturday and most Italian games were on a Sunday. Up until 1987/88 Serie A only had sixteen teams with two up two down. This meant that the players were seldom worn out mentally or physically, playing in midweek only or their national teams or in Europe or the Coppa d’Italia for their clubs, with a short midwinter break and a September start to the season.
I made a number of pilgrimages then to worship at the shrine of Liam Brady, my Arsenal King of Kings. Many found the Italian game of that era like watching paint dry. I loved it. The level of tactical sophistication and concentration was impressive. Goals really had to be earned in Italy then. The super-high level of defensive organisation from the front to the back bred a level of subtlety in passing and movement that is rare in British and Irish midfielders and forwards. Brady fitted in a treat. It is a great regret to me that we never got to see him at his absolute peak which came in his six and a bit seasons with Juve, Samp, Inter and Ascoli in Italy.
Onward and upwards to Monday night.
Keep the faith!